Thursday, June 30, 2011

saying goodbye

It never is very easy, is it.

Tonight we sent our faithful dog Omaha on to his next journey. Under the shade of the maple out back by the gardens, with a clean, brushed coat and a belly full of meatballs, we hugged him and kissed him and cried into his fur as he laid his head to sleep in our hands. Words can't express the appreciation I have for our family vet (who has really become more family than vet) who guided us through our dog's care to the end. He sent Omaha on his way tonight, saying "alright buddy, go exploring."

Far be it for me to try to add to the sayings of how deeply a dog's companionship can shape our lives. Omaha was the first dog that was mine, coming home with me a small pup thirteen summers ago. I am grateful for the adventures and travels we shared, the stories to be remembered, his pups that carry on his likeness. What I am perhaps most grateful for is the lessons he taught me about love and patience.

He was a part of my life long before babies and a husband entered the scene, but he met his growing family (and diminished attention) with joy. Omaha taught us patience in parenting. When the little ones taunted him and pulled at the paws of this large dog who had to be muzzled and held down just to trim his nails, he never so much as growled at them. He would calmly turn away, often licking them affectionately like a litter of rowdy pups.

If this dog, who shared no blood ties and knew no words to communicate with these babes could receive them so patiently, then surely I as their parent could model the same.

It was peaceful and calm, this ending of his, though it still leaves a hole that I'm told will mend. So long, Omaha. Hope the exploring is good.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

passing it on

The other day, I received an e-mail from an address I didn't recognize. The unknown address -- coupled with the subject line refering to a "gift" -- had me ready to hit delete. Suspicious as I was, I opened it just to see. There were no links or attachments, no requests for aid or information about a windfall inheritance. Instead, I found only this quote:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other media. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours--clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."
-Martha Graham

I sat for a moment, wondering at the timing of this seemingly stray message. There's been a strong and steady internal debate lately about all the things I do and those that I would like to add, looking at the direction I am heading and why I feel compelled to move that way. I've spent a lot of time questioning and comparing, which is why this quote struck me as so fitting. It is not for me to determine how good it is. Reading that brought a sense of what could almost be described as relief.

And so, I am passing this quote along to you, in the hopes that it might bring a similar bit of peace to where you are along your path right now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

summer sides

When the weather is warm, our food preferences shift from the hearty, warm meals of winter to the light and refreshing foods of summer. We've been keeping the heat of cooking outside on the grill and have been mixing up some fitting summer side dishes to round out our dinners. I look to include dark leafy greens and healthful legumes in each day's cooking, and these two recipes make for a simple and delicious way to feature both foods.

Parmesan and Egg Kale Salad

The Dressing

1/4 c. lemon juice
3 T. grated parmesan
2 t. whole grain mustard
1 t. worcestershire sauce
1 minced garlic clove
6 t. olive oil

Combine first five ingredients in a jar; shake to mix. Add oil and mix well. This makes enough for at least two salads, so store the extra in the fridge.

The Salad
1 bunch curly kale
1 hard boiled egg white
shredded parmesan cheese

Wash, dry and tear one large bunch of curly kale. Add dressing. Press the hard boiled egg white through a fine metal strainer over the salad. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan and cracked black pepper.

Three Bean (and a bit more) Salad

The Salad

2 cups prepared garbanzo beans
2 cups prepared kidney beans
2 cups cut fresh or frozen green beans
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
a few leaves of kale, spinach or other leafy green torn into small pieces

The Dressing

1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine beans and vegetables, mix dressing and pour over beans. Stir to coat well. Refrigerate before serving.

Both of these salads are delicious accompaniments to all the summer dining ahead!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

homemade bug spray

On the heels of all the rain we've had lately, the mosquitoes are out in full force. The pesky bugs aren't enough to deter the kids from their favorite play places, as I learned the other morning when all three little ones came up from the creek, blissful and covered with bites. We quickly mixed up a batch of our tried and true bug spray. Using all natural ingredients, this recipe safely keeps the bugs away.

Natural Bug Spray

1/2 c. witch hazel
25 drops cedarwood oil
25 drops lemongrass oil
15 drops eucalyptus oil
10 drops lavender oil
5 drops tea tree oil

Mix all the ingredients and store in a convenient spray bottle (we use a small, aluminum spray bottle like this.) Shake well before applying.

The witch hazel works well to dilute the essential oils which can be too strong to apply directly to skin (make sure to test for sensitivity even when the oils are diluted). Distilled water or a carrier oil, such as almond or jojoba oil, work equally well.

There are a variety of essential oils that help to repel bugs, and even just a few of the ones we use can do the job (cedarwood and lemongrass are especially repellant). Any combination of these additional oils can be used with great success:


Now the only hard part is getting the spray on the kids before they're out the door!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


All those cliches about how fast time flies, insert them now.

It's been two years since Charlotte entered our lives, two years full of her strong personality, sweet smile and steady presence in our family. Over the past few days, we have been preparing for her celebration and remembering just what we were doing two years ago.

Our first two births read like some poetry of what birth could be. Peaceful and natural and safe in our home, easy and free of complication. I expected more of the same third time around.

But this birth, this was a long one. Starts and stops, sleepless nights, water breaking and every trick in the book to try to bring forth this baby. Miles of walking, endlessly walking, through the woods, through our neighborhood, through all hours of the day and night. Homeopathy and acupuncture and everything our midwife and doula and I could conjure up to move in the right direction. But I was stuck. She was staying put.

There is this picture, early morning on the third day of labor, that pulls me back into that place.

When I look at this, I remember the deep feeling of exhaustion. I remember that I felt afraid, and of what, I am not sure. When a whole night of working at this birthing thing the best way I knew how had only provided one more centimeter of change, I just about broke. I called my then-pregnant sister in tears, crying so hard I could barely speak. I thought for certain she would think something devastating had happened. But she understood.

I paced in circles in the yard, wondering why I was so stubbornly clinging to this idea of a homebirth, wearing myself down when I knew a quick trip to the hospital and some pitocin would end this show in short time. I should say I was surrounded by support and love in every way imaginable, but if you know birth, you know there is a point at which those things beyond you can't quite be reached.

Too long with no sleep. Too long with open waters. Too long with no change. We threw in the towel. As everything was packed up around me, I sank into the tub (that one option I had held onto, keeping it in my pocket for when I thought I would need it most). Unused birth supplies headed back out to the cars, toothbrushes and baby clothes tossed in a bag. Something shifted.

The midwife came back into the room saying it was time to go. But it all felt so different, much bigger than me. She didn't want to check again, didn't want me to be discouraged, but when she did, her words were like a gift: get back in that tub and have your baby.

The exhaustion was replaced by energy and excitement, the fear melted away and there was strength in its place. It was harder than anything I had done before, but soon there was this, born into our hands on a sunny Sunday afternoon...

And each of those points along the way, the doubts and the fears, the fatigue and the worry, all of it was suddenly perfect. It all brought us to that moment.

The retrospective is always easier, following along to see where the path has veered, but ultimately brought you to where you are meant to be. As I move farther along this mothering path, I see -- I hope -- that it must be the same. There are mistakes and misgivings, fear mixed with delight, anger and sadness, days both dark and red-letter. But when you piece it all together and turn to look back, nothing seems out of place or purpose.

At least that's what I'm holding out for. And since these babes keep growing so quickly, I'm sure it won't be long now before I'll be looking back to see if I'm right.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

in the moments

It's been busy around here, catching up and trying to keep up with injuries, doctor's appointments, procedures and all their accompanying concern, housework and phone calls, commitments and to-do lists. It can be a struggle to not let these tasks overwhelm the day. It's a comfort when I stop to measure the spaces within the shuffle and see that much joy and living has taken place in the moments between.

Wishing you much joy and laughter in the moments of your days.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

turning thirty

Last weekend, we celebrated my 30th birthday. (I can remember when thirty seemed so grown up to me; I'm still waiting to feel like a grown up...) Matt put together a big ol' bash in my honor. Our home was filled with friends and family, bearing delicious food and lovely gifts. There was so much warmth and love that it was just about too much for this gal to handle.

We grilled and ate and then ate some more, enjoyed the beautiful weather and the pleasure of introducing so many of our friends to our home, our gardens, our chickens and all the things that make this place so special for us. Having everyone here to share it with us made it all mean that much more.

Our home is filled with beautiful flowers brought by friends, pleasant reminders of the day everywhere I look.

There were so many generous gifts, thoughtful and fitting in ways that astounded me. Collections of recipes and ingredients for new foods to enjoy, the means to put in our permanent clothesline, beautiful dishes, giftcards and books, handmade treasures and more.

a yummy homemade bath scrub

a beautiful paper cutting made by a dear friend. i am drawn to the detail of the children playing.

a sculpture that I am so in love with

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I felt so contented. I thought of all the people who made the effort to come by and help celebrate these thirty years of living. Friends came from out of state, family went out of their way to fill the tables and run the show. I was surrounded by people from every stage of my life, from the family that has known me since before I was born and those who have joined along the way, the friends from gradeschool and high school who have grown up alongside me, college friends, mothering friends, friends from the farm. It's hard to put words to the warmth that filled me that evening.

But it sure was a wonderful way to usher in this next decade and bid farewell to the last.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

filling in

Hello, there.

Some of you have been wondering where we've been. We're here, and aside from some computer problems that have been keeping me away, all is good and busy. We've been happily...

splashing in the high water brought by heavy rains

enjoying fresh local chicken from the farmer's market

bringing in the blooms

catching frogs in the creek

tending things growing

And that's just a little bit of filling in for the past week. I'm hoping to be back here more (computer willing) with some celebrations, some things in the making and some recipes to share. Thanks to those of you who have checked in on us. We're all doing fine.

Won't you tell us, what has been filling in your days?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

in the ground

The garden is finally on its way. The digging is done (for now), the stones have been cleared and the soil has been mixed and turned. With the usual helpers at our side and the sun strong overhead, we tucked seeds and plants into the fresh dirt.

I must say I was a little hesistant to begin planting. I have a tendency to think there is one best way to do something, and I'll often overthink things to death before making a plan. This is the largest gardening space we've had yet, which added a bit of pressure to the whole situation. A good deal of time was spent looking, thinking and looking some more before deciding to just dig in.

We have filled four beds, totaling about 170 square feet of growing space. A few more plants have made their way to our doorstep, generous offerings from friends and some extras from the farm garden, so a bit more digging will likely be in order (not that I'm complaining!).

The other afternoon, as I sat taking in all the growing things, I did a quick count of the many edible foods in our yard. I included the new plantings, the potatoes, fruit trees, wild berries along the creek, the spring violets and the maple trees, coming up with over 50 food-producing varieties growing here in our little bit of earth.

I like the sound of that.

While there is still more work ahead (fences, stakes, trellises and more), it feels good to have this bit done (and to be done thinking about the right way to do it). I know that the simple mix of sun, soil, air and water are what these plants most need, and already they are rewarding us with the signs of what's to come, each flower and ripening fruit soon to be food to harvest and enjoy.

As with so many things we are doing these days, I am open to and grateful for the opportunity to learn through our efforts -- the successes and failures alike. Each brings its own share of confidence and teaching.

Here's hoping that what we've put in the ground yields just enough of both.